It's part of the mythology of the war on terror that jihadists and al Qaeda men are always waiting to strike with ricin. The reality is more dull. The guys who are most interested in ricin have traditionally been American kooks, most frequently from the far right and survivalist fringe.
The definitive piece on American ricin kooks, compiled almost a year ago, is here. But every few months, one can add another eccentric to the list. The new candidate is a man in Washington state, Jeffrey Marble, written about in the news a couple days ago.
"The FBI Thursday was investigating 'a strong suspicion' that an Everett, WA,, man had the deadly poison ricin in his home office, and a specially trained hazardous-materials team -- including experts flown in from Washington, D.C. -- locked down the home," reported the Seattle PI. In the story, Marble was alleged to be out to poison his wife with "eye drops and Ricinus communis and lye and rat bait."
The story implied that either a small number of castor seeds or a bit of castor powder were found, both enough to have the owner quickly sent over for a few years at the bighouse. Pounding or grinding castor seeds is regarded by the US government as taking a significant step toward making a toxic weapon. This is always answered in short order with a conviction and hard time.
And despite the great amount of literature now on the Internet about the great foolishness in pounding castor seeds into powder -- there are pages and pages here, here, here and here -- American eccentrics continue to have a fetish-like obsession with it.
Credit it to a peculiar mania associated with old white rural America -- the whimsy that someone, or the government, is plotting to get you -- and that it might be a good idea to have some exotic poison powder handy, just in case you need to defend yourself, plot an assassination ... or rub out a family member.
Ricin poison recipes on the Internet now come complete with Google Adsense, webmasters having grasped the idea that searches for them can be worth a few pennies here and there. Originally, the plans stem from Americans, too: Kurt Saxon and his "Poor Man's James Bond" series of pamphets and books, and Maxwell Hutchkinson, author of a similar piece of hobby publishing, "The Poisoner's Handbook," and teenage copyists who put them on bulletin board systems in electronic form a couple decades ago.
Many men have been sent, and will be sent, to jail for being hypnotized by the trivial scribble of basically only two people. It's quite the rich legacy.
The English ricin kook now seems similar to his US counterpart.
"A father and son are being held under the Terrorism Act following the discovery of possible traces of the deadly poison ricin at the house of a suspected white supremacist," reported Sky News recently.
"Police said the suspected ricin was found in a sealed jam jar kept in a kitchen cupboard, apparently for up to two years."
"Ricin was used by the Aum cult on the Tokyo subway system in 1995 in an attack that left 12 people dead," Sky adds.
No good sirs, that was sarin -- a nerve poison
Ricin confirmed, signs also found in urine of suspect's wife.